A Collaborative Approach to Teacher Observation: Using triadic professional dialogue between pre-service and mentor teachers during the teaching practicum to enrich professional agency

Year: 2017

Author: Nash, Melanie, Kriewaldt, Catherine, Reid, Jane, Thornton, Jane, Windsor, Jane

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper we draw on Timperley's (2015) research regarding the importance of structured mentoring conversations, Mtika et al. (2014) work on tripartite dialogue, and Edwards' theorising (2010) of 'relational agency' in collegial conversations, to explore the experience of pre-service teachers and mentors as they engage in post lesson professional dialogue.

The Melbourne Graduate School of Education's Master of Teaching program is an initial teacher-education course that combines school field experience and theoretical aspects of teacher education, from the outset within a clinical model of teacher education. The provision of feedback plays an essential role in the clinical model and encourages the pre-service teacher to develop as a reflective professional during field experience. Feedback is facilitated using a lesson observation schedule that mentor teachers complete during the lesson and this is a basis for a post lesson conversation with the pre-service teacher (PST). This project investigated how the use of the descriptive lesson observation schedule and the conversations that arise from its use, might be enhanced if a three way professional dialogue was facilitated between the PST delivering the lesson, a peer or teacher educator, and the mentor teacher. We call this the Collaborative Approach To Observation (CATO).

This qualitative case study, guided by an interpretivist epistemology (Creswell, 2013), sought to understand the participants' experience as they engaged in new dialogic practices, during post lesson conversations. Our research uses relational agency (Edwards, 2010) and socio-cultural theories of learning (Hodkinson et al. 2008; Wenger, 1998) as its theoretical framework. The research primarily used data generated from group interviews, online surveys and field-notes. As well it drew on professional practice artefacts such as lesson observation schedules and personal reflections from both mentor and pre-service teachers.

Our findings indicated that: (1) that the presence of both the mentor and another observer during the lesson observation, provided multiple perspectives of the lesson, resulting in richer post-lesson professional dialogue, compared to interactions when only the mentor observed the lesson; (2) this three way dialogue provided opportunities for professional growth for all three participants.

This study contributes to a deeper understanding of how we might enhance the professional conversations that occur in post-lesson observation, through the use of multiple perspectives.